WHAT MEN REALLY THINK ABOUT SMART, SUCCESSFUL WOMEN
Many women have told me that they believe their relationships fizzle out—or that they aren’t attractive to men in the first place—because they are “too Alpha.” The thinking is that a man prefers to feel superior to his potential mate, so if you project success and intellectual ability, you will scare away eligible bachelors. (And be careful about seeming too independent or competent, some say.)
Yet, we see time and again that exceptionally smart, successful women do captivate quality men. Celebrities like Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Angelina Jolie, and Amal (Alamuddin) Clooney are popular examples of Alpha Female magnetism. I bet you can think of a few strong, capable women in your own life who have managed to attract lasting love.
So what’s the truth? Do successful men really not want strong, independent mates—leaders, in other words—or is something else going on?
After years of working in the corporate world, I have come to this realization: that men and women have different ideas of what alpha looks and acts like. In other words, the very women who believe they are “too alpha” may not be perceived as strong and confident enough by the men they seek to attract. (And though it's not within my scope to discuss it here, learning to signal alpha to both men and women at work will ensure that you never get passed by for a promotion.)
Tip: The very women who believe they are “too alpha” may actually come across as not alpha enough to the men they hope to attract.
Over the holidays I had the pleasure of attending a gathering of young professionals, mostly under the age of 40. I brought along a simple set of photographs to explore my theory that men and women read leadership cues differently. As a warm-up, I asked 11 men and 9 women to discuss the attributes they would look for in a life partner.
As a group, we agreed that confidence is one of the most important qualities that both men and women look for in a potential mate. Confidence signals that a person is emotionally healthy and at peace with who they are. In fact, the men said that possessing confidence is so critical to a woman’s appeal that it directly influences a man’s perception of her physical beauty and intelligence (attributes that they would also look for in a potential long-term partner.)
Tip: Confidence is the determining factor in a woman’s appeal, influencing a man’s perception of her physical beauty and intelligence. A woman who seems confident is more desirable to men as a long-term mate. The catch is that men and women look for different cues to signal confidence.
I asked both men and women women to look at photos A and B (below) and tell me which of the two models projected strength and confidence. I also asked them to come up with some adjectives to describe each woman.
THE WOMEN VOTE FOR "A"
8 of 9 women said that the model in Photo A projects more alpha. 1 of 9 said that the model in Photo B appears more confident.
THE MEN VOTE FOR "B"
8 of 11 men said that the model in Photo B is the Alpha Woman. 3 men said either A or B could be perceived as strong and confident.
Note that all 11 men saw the woman in Photo B as projecting alpha while only one of the women picked her. The more interesting information, though, is in the adjectives that the men and women used to describe the photos (below).
PHOTO A (POINTING)
- "Direct communicator"
- "Trying too hard to make the sale"
- "She's clearly not the boss"
PHOTO B (READING)
- "Self absorbed"
- "She knows something"
- "Self contained"
Now I realize this is hardly a scientific study. My goal is just to start a conversation about the differences in how men and women interpret social signals. How important is it that the woman in Photo B is withholding eye contact?—isn't that often associated with people in power? The women in our group did not consider that aspect of model B's pose, but perhaps the men did, at least subconsciously. Did the women prefer model A because she embodies qualities we might seek in an Alpha Male?
You can see how our biases make it easy to miscommunicate, simply through body language and expression. This is why tips on flirting are so often misguided. Making eye contact with a cute guy seems so subtle to women—like being passive and doing nothing at all—while a man will say "Oh, she practically threw herself at me" because he perceives her gaze to be a direct invitation.
What's the conclusion for strong, independent women? I believe it's this: You don't need to pretend to be less than who you are to attract a strong, capable man.
But you should consider whether you are actually projecting inner confidence, or inadvertently appearing insecure to your dates. Do you tend to feel that you need to "do something" to call attention to yourself or show that you are in charge? (i.e., Acting out behavior that you would find attractive in your guy.) To men, it may appear that you are trying too hard—a sure sign that you don't value yourself highly enough. Next time, scale back on the effort. Practice sitting calmly, and let others approach you if they wish. Look your best, but don't feel you have to provide witty conversation or sultry glances. At its core, serenity is strength. Each day, bring a little peace into your life, and you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you attract both love and respect in the process.
Robyn Wahlgast is a Rules Certified Dating and Relationship Coach for Women, and a happily married mother of three. For more tips on signaling confidence, learn how posture affects others' perception of your power and attractiveness. And if you're looking for ways to project more feminine energy on dates, try this article on Love Energy. For more on masculine-feminine dynamics in dating, read this article on using The Rules to date with healthy boundaries. Never miss a new blog post: subscribe to our FREE newsletter.